London, Ontario Birding Report January 26th – February 1st 2014

Red-breasted Merganser male surfacing with a crayfish.

Red-breasted Merganser male surfacing with a crayfish.

Male Canvasback

Male Canvasback

The most unique observation of the week was this leucistic Black-capped Chickadee.

The most unique observation of the week was this leucistic Black-capped Chickadee.

This past week turned out to be a rather productive one for observing birds along the Thames River, especially waterfowl. In the stretch of river between Greenway and Springbank Parks I recorded twelve species of waterfowl, with a couple of highlights being a Canvasback and Long-tailed Duck. Temperatures were in the negative teens with wind chills ranging from -20C to – 30C most days so dressing for the weather was a must, but well worth getting out for any birder.

The city of London does an excellent job plowing and salting throughout these two parks so walking isn’t an issue, in fact the paths here are better maintained than most neighbourhood sidewalks. Other notable species from the week were a Northern Shrike, regular appearances by the resident bald eagles with both adult and juvenile birds observed, and a leucistic Black-capped Chickadee. Identifying such a unique bird was quite tricky, as at first I believed it to be a Boreal Chickadee. Luckily I managed a few photos, and with the help of two London bird experts deemed it to be a leucistic Black-capped.

One of the most interesting views of the week was watching a male Red-breasted Merganser feed while looking down from a bridge above. The water in this particular section of river is quite shallow and clear so the bird was easily seen swimming underwater each time it dove in search of food. I managed several photos of the bird underwater, as it surfaced, and a couple of times with a crayfish in it’s grasp.

A large flock of Robins was seen feeding on Buckthorn berries on the river bank.

A complete list of birds observed is as follows:

Greater Scaup Male and female.

Greater Scaup male and female.

American Black Duck
American Coot
American Crow
American Goldfinch
American Robin
Bald Eagle
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Bufflehead
Canada Goose
Canvasback
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
Dark-eyed Junco
Downy Woodpecker
European Starling
Great Blue Heron
Greater Scaup
Hooded Merganser
House Sparrow
Long-tailed Duck
Mallard
Mourning Dove
Muscovy Duck
Northern Cardinal
Northern Shrike
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
White-breasted Nuthatch

Birding during cold winter months can be the only time of year to see some of these species. Invest in some good quality warm clothes and enjoy the outdoors twelve months a year. The physical and emotional benefits of birding are unbelievable and I encourage all to get out whenever you can.

Good birding,
Paul

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